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Swimming in Mercy

Swimming in Mercy, Richard Rohr OFM

Cynthia Bourgeault, describes mercy as a quality of this love, the unmerited and unconditional energy that gives life to all things. Cynthia writes in her book, Mystical Hope:

[W]hen we think of mercy, we should be thinking first and foremost of a bond, an infallible link of love that holds the created and uncreated realms together. The mercy of God does not come and go, granted to some and refused to others. Why? Because it is unconditional—always there, underlying everything. It is literally the force that holds everything in existence, the gravitational field in which “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Just like that little fish swimming desperately in search of water, we, too “swim in mercy as in an endless sea.” [1] Mercy is God’s innermost being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love.

To think this way perhaps takes some getting used to. From our traditional theological models, we are used to thinking in terms of God “up there” and ourselves “down here”—God wholly unknown to us and of a fundamentally different substance, of which we are but a very distant reflection. But as the language of modern quantum physics penetrates increasingly into the basic metaphors of theology, allowing us to think more freely in terms of “conservation of energy,” we can begin to see how God and creation actually exist in an energetic continuum. Just as we now know that matter is actually “condensed” energy (i.e., energy in a more dense and slow-moving form), would it be too great a leap to say that energy as we experience it—as movement, force, light—is a “condensation” of divine will and purpose? In other words, energy is what happens when divine Being expresses itself outwardly.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3) 

If we understood Word to mean at root vibration—the out-speaking of the divine will and purpose—then the Word is that which makes manifest the fullness of divine purpose as it moves outward into form. This “energetic” reading of the Gospel text might help explain the persistent mystical intuition undergirding so much of the New Testament that Jesus Christ, as the human incarnation of the divine Word (or Logos), is the fundamental ordering principle of the cosmos “in whom all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).


[1] Psalm 103:11, from the Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer (The Episcopal Church: 1979).

Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001), 25-26, 27-28.